PM Narendra Modi (left) shakes hands with French President Francois Hollande
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has hit the ground running in his visit to France, the first of the three G7 countries he is visiting, the other two being Germany and Canada.
Modi’s France visit yielded a rich harvest of agreements on 10 April and put the India-France strategic partnership on a far stronger footing than it was ever before.
The endless wait for the Indian Air Force since 2007 for fighter aircraft should end soon as PM Modi changed the basic contours of the MMRCA deal after his talks with French President Farncois Hollande, in which India decided to buy 36 Rafale aircraft in fly-away conditions at an approximate cost of $4 billion.
“I asked the President to supply us with 36 Rafale jet fighter planes, the ready-to-fly models,” PM Modi said at a joint news conference with Hollande after their talks in Paris, adding that terms and conditions of the contract have yet to be finalised and officials from both sides would work out the details.
This will give a breather to the Indian Air Force which was choking on account of fighter aircraft squadrons’ strength. What PM Modi has done is to double the number of the planes that India planned to buy from France off-the-shelf with 108 others being assembled in India by the state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited or HAL in Bengaluru.
As a sort of compensation, India has agreed to buy 18 more Rafale planes from Dassault Aviation.
However, there was a dampener of sorts for the Modi government from the maverick BJP politician Subramanian Swamy, who threatened to take legal recourse if the government went ahead with the Rafale deal, arguing that there were shortcomings in the French fighter aircraft.
This is what Swamy said in a statement: “There are two major issues with the Rafale aircraft deal which would embarrass the BJP government. The first is that Rafale is less fuel efficient aircraft and lacking in essential performance characteristic. No country in the world has agreed to buy these aircraft… If the Prime Minister for some other ‘compulsion’ decides to go ahead with the deal, I will have no option but to approach the court in PIL to get it set aside.”
Swamy said that some countries have cancelled contract after signing an MoU with Dassault and added thus: “It is a fact that Dassault will go bankrupt if no country buys the Rafale and we want to oblige the French goodwill, it is better to buy Dassault itself rather than their planes as it will be more beneficial.”
Coming back to the India-France bilateral diplomacy, France agreed to invest two billion Euros in India and help in developing three smart cities, including Puducherry and Nagpur. On Smart Cities, it was agreed to include Smart City cooperation as an area of technical cooperation under the October 2012 MoU on Cooperation in the Field of Sustainable Urban development between France and India. This cooperation would include working together on feasibility studies, building capacities at national, region and local levels, organizing workshops/trainings, forging business-to-business partnerships and implementing any other projects mutually determined.
The writer of the Chinese English daily Global Times, who predicted that prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Europe trip will be a failure, will be looking for a place to hide on the very first leg of Modi’s three-nation tour as India and France covered lot of ground in this visit.
The two sides forged closer understanding on the issue of terrorism and further strengthened their already vibrant defence ties in fields like aircraft, submarines and missiles.
The most remarkable concrete deliverable was PM Modi’s decision to buy 36 Rafale fighter aircraft, or two squadrons, off-the-shelf to augment Indian Air Force’s depleting fighter squadrons.
Other highlights of the meet were India and France agreeing on dismantling of terrorist infrastructure, denying safe havens to terrorists, bringing perpetrators and conspirators of terrorist attacks to justice, France working on high speed rail between Chandigarh and Delhi (two railway stations in between the two cities, including Ambala) and at least twenty agreements, MoUs and initiatives signed after PM Modi’s talks with French President Francois Hollande in Paris on Friday.
1. MoU between L&T and AREVA
It is aimed at cost reduction by increasing localization, to improve the financial viability of Jaitapur project. It will also enable transfer of technology and development of indigenous nuclear energy industry in India.
2. Pre-engineering agreements between NPCIL and AREVA
The PEA studies intend to bring clarity on all technical aspects of the plant so that all parties (AREVA, Alstom and NPCIL) can firm up their price and optimize all provisions for risks still included at this stage in the costs of the project.
3. MoU between ISRO and CNES on Megha Tropiques
The Indo-French Megha Tropiques satellite was launched on board the Indian launch vehicle, PSLV on 12 October, 2011. The MoU shall extend by 2 more years, the joint project for sharing and use of data from the satellite.
4. ‘MOU between ISRO, CNES and ONERA for Ka-band propagation experiment over Indian tropical region’
The MoU envisages cooperation for implementation of the project concerning Ka-band propagation experiment over Indian tropical region. The main objective is to collect Ka-Band attenuation data using available Ka-Band transmission and perform analysis along with corresponding radio meter and meteorological data.
5. Programme between ISRO and French National Centre for Space Studies (CNES)
The agreement proposes cooperation in the areas of Satellite Remote sensing, satellite communications and satellite meteorology; space sciences and planetary exploration; data collection and location; operations of satellite ground stations and spacecraft mission management; space research and applications.
It covers the potential cooperation activities such as joint earth observation mission, hosted payload opportunities and Mars exploration.
6. MoU on Cooperation between the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports of India and French Ministry of Sports, Youth Affairs, Public Education and Community Life
The MoU envisages cooperation and exchange of experiences in the fields of sports medicine, institutional cooperation, development of practice of sports in the context of proximity sports, support of participation of women and the disabled in sports, management and coordination of sports federations, training of executives and establishment of National Institute of Sports in India based on French model of INSEP.
7. Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on cooperation in the field of renewable energy between the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), Government of India and the Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy, Government of France
The understanding reached in this MoU will help establish the basis for cooperation and relationship to encourage and promote technical bilateral cooperation on new and renewable energy issues on the basis of mutual benefits and reciprocity through exchange and training of technical personnel, exchange of information and data, joint research and transfer of know-how and technology. It would cover solar, wind, bio-energy, tidal and wave energy sectors.
8. Railway protocol between Indian Ministry of Railways and French National Railways (SNCF)
The Protocol seeks to establish cooperation between Indian and French Railways for semi-high speed rail and station renovation.
9. Guarantee Agreement with AFD Financing of Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL)
The Agreement seeks to finance Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL).
Culture, heritage conservation, tourism, people-to-people contacts
10. Administrative Arrangement in the field of Cultural Heritage
The Administrative Arrangement between the Indian Ministry of Culture and French Ministry of Culture and Communication envisages cooperation in the field of cultural heritage, through training of Indian heritage conservation professionals at the Institute National du Patrimoine (INP), a higher education establishment of training for curators and restorers in the field of heritage in France, as well as Development of cultural and scientific cooperation in the fields of conservation and restoration of the heritage, short duration training sessions in India by INP trainers in Indian institutes and training of French training in India etc.
11. Letter of Intent on Tourism
LoI for increasing cooperation in tourism sector signed between India and France aims to promote sustainable bilateral tourism between the two countries including through mutual promotion of tourism, ensuring safety of tourists and encouraging sharing of expertise and best practices. The LoI also seeks to facilitate twinning of sites having historical, natural and cultural significance in India and France for promoting them as tourist destinations.
12. Letter of Intent (LoI) between the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and National Institute of Preventive Archaeological Research (INRAP)
The LoI envisages collaboration on preventive archaeology projects, initiatives to disseminate culture and promote archaeology, training programmes for specialists of ASI and deployment of expertise, in particular, in the field of underwater archaeology.
13. MOU between School of Planning and Architecture, Delhi and National Architecture Institute in Paris, France
The MoU envisages cooperation to undertake joint planning and geographical studies in India and France and training of local counterparts in modern urban and regional research as well as in techniques of scientific methods in Urban and regional planning, geography, environment, Building engineering and management.
14. MoU between Indian Heritage Cities Network Foundation (IHCN) and Association Nationale des Villes et Pays d’Art et d’Histoire et villes a secteurs sauvegardés et protégés (‘ANVPAH’)
This MoU envisages cooperation between to cooperate in the fields of sustainable development, urban planning, heritage conservation and up-gradation of basic services.
15. Proposal for twinning of historical monuments
Twinning of historical monuments is covered under the LoI on Tourism Cooperation.
16. VIE scheme to allow Indian students in France and French students in India to stay for a period of 24 months.
The Volontariat International en Entreprise (VIE) scheme offers Indian Visa for 12 months renewable once for a period of 12 months for 250 French students and a ‘second residence permit’ of 12 months for the Indian students in France following the 12 months already granted.
17. Letter of Intent on Ayurveda between Ministry of Ayush and University of Strasbourg
LoI allows both the parties to strengthen their relationships and cooperation in the area of Ayurveda education and research by under-taking academic and research activities, exploring feasibility of collaborative research, drawing up strategies for dissemination of results of completed studies and conducting joint workshops/conferences on Ayurveda as complimentary medicine in France.
18. MoU between National Skill Development Agency (NSDA), India and the National Commission for Vocational Qualifications (Commission Nationale de la Certification Professionnelle – CNCD)
For exchange of information regarding the maintenance of National Skills Qualification Framework and the French National Register for Vocational Certifications (RNCP). The agreement will facilitate exchange of information and knowledge about maintenance of qualification registers through information exchanges, visits and other suitable meetings.
Science and Technology
19. MoU on cooperation in the field of Science & Technology between Department of Science & Technology of India and the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS)
The MoU is for cooperation between the two countries in the areas of applied mathematics, physics, Information & communication technology, water resources and environment, life sciences, astronomy, climate and energy by exchange of information, organization of meetings/workshops/seminars, exchange of research personnel; joint projects; establishment of Virtual Joint Laboratories, and establishment of Joint Research Centres.
20. MoU between Department of Biotechnology of India and CNRS and UPMC on Collaboration for establishment of a National Institute of Marine Biology and Biotechnology in India
The proposed MoU seeks to establish a National Institute of Marine Biology and Biotechnology in India, with a Hub and Spoke network of laboratories spanning India’s marine regions from the Andaman to Lakshadweep.